Barn8 Detail

The New Custodians: Part 1 of 3

by Cathy and Richard Cooper, Kingston

Continue to Part 2 published October 24th. | Part 3 published October 31st.

We knew the barn on our property had been there a long time, as we were told by the insurance company arranging the coverage on our new purchase. Its existence was first recorded in 1863.

We moved to Kingston in pursuit of a quiet lifestyle with a bit of property to ensure some privacy. We found fifteen acres with a newer bungalow, a separate machine shop, what we now call “the grise house” and of course, our barn. From the moment we stood inside and breathed in the heady scent of 160-year-old pine, we were smitten. The warmth of the beams and posts wrapped around us, transporting us to a time long ago. We tried to envision the stories it held. The voices of the past clinging to the beams.

It was listing heavily in the southwest corner. The barn boards, eroded by a century and a half of eastern Ontario weather, were now wafer thin, clinging desperately to the hand-crafted square headed nails. The floor had long rotted and been replaced with gravel that had accelerated more rot, eating away at the posts. The roof leaked and was home to bats, house wrens, squirrels, and the like, and it bore the scars of numerous updates and changes. We ventured into it daily and each time it spoke to us. Telling tales of neglect and abuse. We knew it had other stories to tell and in discovering those we quickly learned we were not the owners of this land or the buildings that sat on it. We were merely the custodians, trusted to its safe keeping.

Knowing we wanted to restore the barn to its original state was one thing. Finding someone who not only shared our dream but had the skill to make it reality was the challenge. We spoke to one contractor who was prepared to prop up the listing corner with lots of metal beams but did not see our vision of a restored building. After a referral by a neighbour, we met Travis McCann. On his first day of consultation he sat, walked, and studied the barn, absorbing all it could tell him, for a full eight hours. Then he met with us offering a few options for restoration. In listening to his ideas, of reconstruct, repair, and replace only where necessary, we knew we had found the right person.

… to be continued – Part 2 next Monday

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